CHICK COREA/CHRISTIAN McBRIDE/BRIAN BLADE AT MACKY AUDITORIUM (Boulder; October 9, 2019)

The supertrio of Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade has so much musical experience that their concert performances can–and frequently do–go in many different directions. At a recent performance at Macky Auditorium, the group used compositions by jazz giants to illustrate its expansion of the trio style. However, “Trilogy 2”, the double CD documenting the group’s last world tour, offers a freer approach and a (mostly) different repertoire. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both the concert and the CD in this special combined review.

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VERONICA SWIFT: “HER INFINITE VARIETY”

In “Antony and Cleopatra”, Shakespeare wrote, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale, her infinite variety”. The words were originally a tribute to the Egyptian queen, but they have special significance in the career of jazz vocalist Veronica Swift. Thomas Cunniffe explores the music and life of this multi-talented young lady in this JHO Profile.

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VAIL JAZZ PARTY (August 29-September 2, 2019)

The 25th Vail Jazz Party featured its usual mix of returning and new artists, several new recurring performances, a new venue for the Party’s most popular event, and an energetic festival staff that is building on the Vail legacy to create new and exciting additions to the existing festival. Thomas Cunniffe’s review is accompanied with photos from several fine photographers.

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FOCUS ON COMPOSITIONS

There is a special challenge inherent in composing for a small jazz ensemble. The composer must leave enough room for improvisation but not stifle his/her own creative impulses. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three new albums primarily comprised of original music which secure that delicate balance. Led by Anat Cohen, Tom Harrell and Skip Wilkins, the discs feature prime examples of progressive jazz compositions.

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REMINISCING AND RE-EVALUATING

The four albums in this month’s vocal CD reviews feature artists who look backward and forward at the same time. “Somewhere”, the new disc from Peter Eldridge and Kenny Werner sounds like a classic vocalist-with-strings date but most of the music is new. On “Thirsty Ghost”, Sara Gazarek uses an eclectic selection of pop and jazz songs to comment on events from her personal life. Maggie Herron offers fresh interpretations of standards written over a 100-year span on “Renditions”, and the New York Voices’ “Reminiscing in Tempo” finds the group using jazz standards to explore new directions in their musical sphere. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the results.

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THE BLUE NOTE STORY (ON VIDEO)

Blue Note Records stood apart from nearly every other American label for its dedication to artistic freedom and its disinterest in creating hit records. The company founders, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, shared a deep love for jazz, despite possessing little technical knowledge of the music. After immigrating to the US from Nazi Germany, they […]

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“THE PLAYBOY JAZZ ALL-STARS, VOLUME 2” (LP: Playboy PB 1958)

Don’t let the Playboy moniker throw you: The album under review does include a gatefold cover, but there are no nude photos inside. “The Playboy Jazz All-Stars, Volume 2” collected tracks by the winners of the magazine’s 1958 jazz poll, and aside from a few misogynist remarks in the liner notes, the album is completely family-friendly. In fact, it was one of the first jazz albums that the teenaged Thomas Cunniffe ever heard. In this Retro Review, he recalls this recording, his growing love of the music, and a very special Christmas present.

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“RABBIT’S BLUES” (by Con Chapman)

Johnny Hodges was a private man who disliked giving interviews. Self-taught on both alto and soprano saxophones, he was not particularly well-versed on the mechanics of music, and the fear of being asked to explain elements of his personal style may have been his reason for keeping the press at arm’s length. In his new Hodges biography, “Rabbit’s Blues”, Con Chapman explores many of the stories about the enigmatic saxophonist. However, reviewer Thomas Cunniffe was disturbed by the book’s lack of musical discussions, so he has amended this Book Review with five embedded YouTube clips featuring some of Hodges’ finest solos.

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NOTES FROM THE EDITOR 9-19

How to support your favorite jazz website (three guesses which one!) plus information about this issue’s brand new articles.

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